Once upon a time there was a team who graduated Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James. They weren't supposed to be good. They ended up being good. The end. This story has been on replay since Buzz Williams's team emerged as a contender in the Big East last season. Marquette had a great offense and a pretty good defense. They made shots and didn't turn the ball over. They played in many close games. 17 games were decided by five points or less. The Eagles went 8-9 in those games. Ultimately, they lost an 80-78 battle to Washington in the first round of the Dance.
Once upon a time there was a team who graduated Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan. They weren't supposed to be good (ranked 10th in Big East here). Sounds familiar, right? It will be tough to duplicate last year for Marquette, but I'm not picking against them.
A flaw to consider...
This is not breaking news. Even your little sister knows Villanova fouled way too much last year. Scottie Reynolds was the best on the team at not fouling last year. Without Scottie, the problem is certainly not going to get any better without working on it. Mouph Yarou, Maurice Sutton, and Isaiah Armwood are three young big men who could be called upon to produce more this season. All three, however, showed they too like to foul when in the game. Villanova will know doubt be good, but will continue to beat (foul?) a dead horse.
A team that will get more attention than their body of work merits...
The Huskies got a lot of attention last year for an 18-16 team. ESPN seemed to have them perpetually right on the bubble because of their reputation. Regardless, UConn played solid defense last season. They will likely be worse on defense this season. Calhoun did not use his bench very often and now he has a lot of inexperienced (yet talented) players. With Dyson, Robinson, and Edwards all lost to graduation, it seems like a rebuilding year is probable. Ater Majok, however, will not be part of the process.
A team that will get less attention then their body of work merits...
The Pirates could score with ease last year. There really is no reason to think that will change this year. Hazell, Theodore, and Robinson are all back with ORtg's well over 100. Seton Hall will be one of the top teams in the Big East when it comes to putting the ball through the hoop. An improved defense would carry the Pirates into the NCAA Tourney. Whether they can improve or not is the million dollar question. Mississippi transfer, Eniel Polynice, should help the defense to some extent. Seton Hall is certainly a team with a high degree of variance, but could turn themselves into Big East contenders in a perfect world.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
Picking out the top five players, let alone the top player, in a league this good and deep is brutal. Still, someone has to win. In the case Abromaitis's 2009-10 season was too good to ignore. He was one of the best shooters in the nation and didn't turn the ball over. No one can reasonably expect another 127.8 ORtg as the complete go-to guy this season, but he should once again be one of the most efficient scorers in the country. Cases could be made for about ten other guys to win this "award". Tim, make us proud.
Best of the Rest:
1) Corey Fisher, Villanova
2) Jimmy Butler, Marquette
3) Austin Freeman, Georgetown
4) Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
5) D.J. Kennedy, St. Johns
6) Kevin Jones, West Virginia
7) Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
8) Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Maalik Wayns, Villanova
Wayns showed a lot of promise in his freshman season for the Wildcats. The 6'1" rookie shot 49% from two, 32% from three, and 81% from the foul line. Turnovers bothered Wayns some. He turned the ball over just over 1/5 of possessions. Wayns was a big part of the Nova offense when he was in the game. He had a %Poss of 23.3 and an ORtg of 102.8. A big chunk of Scottie Reynolds' minutes will presumably go to Wayns. He showed last season that he can compete in the Big East. Most importantly, he has plenty of room for improvement. Wayns is an excellent breakout candidate entering his sophomore season.
Best of the Rest:
1. Casey Mitchell, West Virginia (18.5 %Min, 102.8 ORtg, 24.3 %Poss)
2. Dominic Cheek, Villanova (33.5 %Min, 109.9 ORtg, 18.2 %Poss)
3. Mookie Jones, Syracuse (12.8 %Min, 118.2 ORtg, 22.4 %Poss)
4. Dalton Pepper, West Virginia (14.8 %Min, 112.5 ORtg, 20.3 %Poss)
5. Augustus Gilchrist, South Florida (38.1 %Min, 104.8 ORtg, 25.3 %Poss)**
**Gilchrist missed significant time last season due to injury.
Tiered rankings sure to be wrong: